Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Simple Practice

Repost from October 2013

I wanted to return to an earlier post and present again a simple meditation technique that anyone can practice.  It’s called the Twenty Breaths Practice.  It only takes a few minutes, can be performed almost anywhere, and can yield great stress relief.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Downside to Mindfulness

Repost from January 2014

I write so much about the benefits of mindfulness that I have to fess up when I come across a study that reveals negative effects.  This hasn’t been too taxing because there are so few resources painting mindfulness as having any deleterious effects at all.  But recent research out of Georgetown University does just that.

It turns out that mindfulness can inhibit implicit learning and implicit memory.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Stepping Up

Repost from December 2012

It’s impossible to write a blog about mental illness without confronting the violence that has descended on this country all too often.  Too many innocent victims have fallen at the hands of too many offenders to set the issue aside.  My heart bleeds for the victims lost and the loved ones remaining.  Nothing written can take away the pain of the survivors.  But a call to action may help to prevent such crimes from continuing.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bored to Tears

Repost from September 2013

Just a few days ago I realized I was bored with the internet and my mobile devices.  Together they have contributed to my font of trivial knowledge.  But it has been a very long time since I delved deeply enough into a topic to fully understand it, or to contribute to it with original ideas.  And perhaps most important, I have been losing my sense of nuance.  All discourse seems to fall on one side or the other.  Intellectually I have been anything but mindful.  In fact, the constant barrage of information, updates, and check-ins, and the 24-hour availability of me and everyone I know have turned me into a cognitive fight or flight machine.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I'd Rather Be Fishing?

I’m not the fishing type. Sure, the idea of standing in running water in the mountains casting flies sounds wonderful.  But I live in the city and like it.  And I don’t like fish.

However, for the last week I’ve been obsessed with fly-fishing.  My wife, daughter, and I spent a weekend in the Berkshires, and we’ve all been caught up in the idea of leaving the city and retiring to a rural area.  At least I have.  My wife is more partial to beaches.  My daughter is three.  She wants to be wherever she is.  I’ve always been drawn to the imagined solitude of rural life:  Farms, pastures, groves of trees, rivers, lakes, and fly-fishing.  Yes, I’m hypomanic right now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Our Fear of Silence

Repost from January 2013

The cultivation of mindfulness requires periods of focused attention.  Many proponents of mindfulness maintain that this is best developed through seated, silent meditation.  So, while I’d like to investigate how to focus the attention, we must first consider our relationship with silence.

Whether in the center of a city or deep in a forest, the cacophony of sounds around us makes it apparent that true silence is impossible.  Composer John Cage wrote music that included long periods of silence.  When the musicians stopped playing, concertgoers were quickly confronted with the shuffling, shifting, and coughing sounds in the concert hall.  So what is silence?  I like to think of it as the absence of intentional sound.  Intentional sounds are the things we turn on such as TVs and iPods, the words spoken or heard in a conversation we are engaged in, music we make such as humming or tapping, and the noise of tools, keyboards, or other objects we are interacting with.  Sounds that remain are unavoidable.  So silence is when we are purposefully quiet.  For many of us, this can be unsettling.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Medical Model

Reposted from November 2012

While I believe mindfulness meditation has been the keystone to my recovery, I still think of it as an adjunct therapy.  I couldn’t manage mental illness as well as I do now if I did not meditate.  But I acknowledge that the medication my doctor prescribes and the therapy visits I have with him are crucial as well.  Only through the consistent application of all three therapies am I well.

Mindfulness meditation is currently all the rage, and it works.  But I am wary of its proponents who claim it can treat (or even cure) mental illness by itself.  Meditation is a powerful tool when used to decrease stress and increase well-being.  But if we are to maintain that mental illnesses are biochemical malfunctions of the brain and nervous system, then we must allow room in treatment for medicine.  Therapy also has a long history of positively impacting the lives of those challenged by psychiatric illness.  Meditation, when added to more traditional and well-tested methods of treatment, can help a patient successfully manage a challenging life.  I, and so many others like me, am proof of that.